Why culture matters when implementing new technology

29 Nov 2021

Michael Browne. Image: Red Hat

Red Hat’s Michael Browne discusses the importance of a digital-first culture when it comes to bringing new technology into a business.

Digital transformation has become somewhat of a buzzword phrase that can cover a whole host of technology implementation across all industries and sectors. Because it’s so broad, the advice around adopting it is often incredibly vague.

However, there is one element of digital transformation that is important to all industries and lends itself to a slightly more specific type of advice for leaders: making digital transformation part of a company’s culture.

Michael Browne leads the UK and Ireland services organisation in Red Hat, which means he’s responsible for all the services in terms of delivery across the UK and Ireland.

Although it’s a relatively new role, Browne has been with the company for about seven years. Speaking to SiliconRepublic.com, he said one of his early experiences of digital transformation was when he joined a company called FeedHenry, which was acquired by Red Hat in 2014.

The company had a mobile platform for enterprises which, at the time, aimed to get paperwork onto mobile devices. “It was a really good, clear example of seeing industry adopt digital transformation.”

In his current role, he sees digital transformation coming into play for enterprises that are looking at how it can be used to help the workforce, especially in this new world where many teams are now working remotely.

“[It’s about] getting the different silos within a customer’s organisation between developers, operational teams, working together to leverage modern platforms,” he said.

“I’m seeing a real trend now where, in terms of digital transformation, it is the customer focusing on, ‘How do we enable our people to work better together and leverage technology more?’”

Digital-first culture

Browne said that while technology can do so much in terms of digital transformation, it’s vital that companies first think about their own culture in order to properly leverage it.

One positive about the pandemic, he has noticed, is the forced shift to digital has helped companies become more aware of the need for a digital-first culture.

“There [was] a culture of going to the office and following certain work processes, whereas now, trust has been given back to the employees,” he said.

“When you’re remote, there’s an element of trust given, which is great. But then there’s a case of now, how we can leverage teams working better together.”

‘Look for feedback and try and have everybody running in the same direction’

While there are steps being taken in the right direction, Browne said he’s still seeing companies working in very siloed ways or working the way they had before even though they know they need to move forward.

“A big part of a successful digital-first campaign is a customer that has a strong leader that’s pushing the agenda about, ‘Let’s have our teams working better together and understand the technology that is underpinning our business.’”

He pointed to a great example of this from one of Red Hat’s UK customers, which not only had several presentations, meetings and calls about a new technology platform it was implementing, but had also printed out information about the technology and why it was purchased and put it on every vending machine in the organisation.

“So, when you went for a can of Coke or a snack, this was before Covid, it was there in front of you and it was reminding people that this was a big investment, [and said] ‘Go talk to your team about why it’s important and why we’ve invested in it.’”

This approach to digital transformation meant that the new technology being brought in had become part of the company’s vernacular, allowing everyone to become familiar with the platform and what it was for, at least on a conceptual level, essentially embedding it into the company culture.

Advice for leaders

“If I was giving any advice from a leadership perspective, it would be to leverage the technology and then be constantly calling that out as something great to the management team as part of the strategy,” said Browne.

“Leadership can also be in a more open-source way where you can put an open document out there or an open slide deck about the technology … look for feedback and try and have everybody running in the same direction.”

In terms of remote and hybrid working, Browne said while digital transformation can help workforces adapt to new processes, any changes still need to be properly planned.

“I think companies really need to think about how to work best because saying ‘it’s hybrid’ isn’t something that always works,” he said.

The companies that are going to be successful going forward are the ones that have thought about it and planned it, he added, looking to get the most out of their people and also ensuring that the company culture remains strong.

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic